Though tempting, Chrome “Feed” is not the return of Google Reader.

Google only wants RSS to appear like Google, not that it dislikes RSS.

Does Google take pleasure in making fun of and occasionally punishing some of the most ardent users of its products? It might appear that way.

Some bloggers are dreaming of the rebirth of Google Reader due to a “Following feed” hidden away inside a recent cutting-edge Chrome release. Even though it’s unlikely, never rule anything out when it comes to Google product choices.

In March, Chrome added a sidebar for reading items on the Reading List and favourites. The unstable testing build of Chromium, the open source alternative to Chrome, has a new flag in it, as reported by the Chrome Story blog over the weekend. When the #following-feed-sidepanel flag is enabled, the sidebar gains a new option called Feed. This option is now also accessible in Chrome’s experimental build, Canary.

Feeds? Like RSS feeds, the kind that our beloved, long-gone Google Reader had before it was sacrificed to atone for Google+’s sins?

According to Kevin Tofel of About Chromebooks, yes. Tofel claims that the feature’s underlying code “strongly implies” an RSS-based feed reader because it is built on the particular vocabulary of “web feeds.” However, the same code block that controls the sidebar’s communication with the browser also states that it will serve as “the interface that Discover Feed content… will utilise to communicate with the browser.”

There is some ambiguity there, but there is also indication that Google is continuing with its arduous efforts to integrate the open RSS standard into its “Follow” environment.

In May 2021, an experiment with Chrome for Android added the “Follow” button. In a tab on your Chrome “new tab” page, following a website allowed you to view its most recent updates, much like the “Discover” home page feature on many Android phones. The function slowly crept into the desktop releases of Chromium Gerrit earlier this year, and a “Follow” button is now present in Chrome Canary.

Last week, Chrome updated its recommendations for website owners that want people to “Follow” their content, advising them to make feed titles clear and to offer readers a single feed rather than many sections.

When discussing Google’s efforts to transform applications and gadgets into content hubs, Chrome-watching blogs like to invoke the ghost of Google Reader in the headlines. However, it seems very improbable that Google would spend so much time and money integrating Discover-like feeds into its phones, web-based laptops, browsers, search engine, Nest hubs, and other products, only to give up and declare, “Actually, we’ll just show you your headlines again.” In addition, Google has control over discover feeds, allowing it to monetize them in a way it cannot with RSS.

Fortunately, there is a market for traditional and modernised RSS readers, and there are a number of excellent choices. Speaking of, users can choose from a variety of segmented RSS feeds offered by Ars Technica. For author-specific feeds, you can also append /feed/ at the end of any author page URL.